An Ohio man has changed his plea to guilty in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to a charge he violated the federal Clean Water Act by repeatedly discharging gas-drilling wastewater into a storm sewer in Youngstown.
The U.S. Attorney in Cleveland Steven Dettelbach today announced that 34-year-old Michael P. Guesman of Cortland admitted to illegally dumping brine and oil-based drilling mud into a sewer that empties into the Mahoning River watershed 24 times on the orders of his boss.
He faces a sentence of about a year in federal prison, although his time could be reduced.
U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent scheduled sentencing for Nov. 15.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson said Guesman is cooperating with investigators and may testify for the government at the trial of Benjamin Lupo, owner of Hardrock Excavating LLC.
Guesman has told investigators that, between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, Lupo instructed him to dump the fracking waste into the storm sewer at least 24 times, always after dark and after all of the other employees had left the facility, Beson said.
Lupo, 62, of Poland, Ohio, has pleaded not guilty to charges of violating the federal Clean Water Act. His trial is not yet scheduled.
An anonymous tipster alerted authorities from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that the improper dumping of fracking waste was occurring, and state agents observed the crime as it was being committed, according to court documents.
Guesman told the agents that Lupo ordered him to lie if questioned about the dumping, and to tell law enforcement officers he had emptied the waste tanks only six times, when in fact he had done it at least four times that number, documents state.